2 Minutes With ... Broken Heart Love Affair's Elma Karabegovic and Shannon McCarroll

On 'Project Understood,' Barton F. Graf, and pizza with pineapples

Elma Karabegovic and Shannon McCarroll both joined Toronto agency Broken Heart Love Affair this summer after four years at FCB Canada, where they worked on the Grand Clio-winning "Project Understood" campaign for the Canadian Down Syndrome Society.

Elma, an associate creative director, has channeled her passion for behavior-changing work into campaigns like "Consent Is Simple" for Project Consent and "Jane's Story" for BMO. When she's not making ads, she's teaching them at Miami Ad School. Shannon, a senior copywriter, has less than six years of experience in advertising, yet her work has been recognized in almost every award show globally.

We spent two minutes with Elma and Shannon to learn more about their backgrounds, their creative inspirations, and recent work they've admired.


Elma and Shannon, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.
  • Elma: I grew up in Macedonia and Bosnia. I live in Toronto now. Yay.
  • Shannon: I grew up in Pickering, just outside of Toronto (slightly east of Bosnia). After escaping to Vancouver Island for a few months, I now live back in Toronto.
How you first realized you were creative.
  • Elma: I've been drawing since I could hold a pencil. I've never known anything different.
  • Shannon: I was called weird a lot as a kid, and it took years until I saw it as a positive. In my mind, weird quickly started to mean creative, especially when I realized I didn't outgrow my imagination like some of the other kids my age. Or maybe I'm just flat-out weird.
A person you idolized creatively early on.
  • Elma: This is going to sound basic, but Leonardo da Vinci. He tried his hand at everything, which sometimes meant he didn't finish it all. He cared more about the process and learning than the result. I really appreciated that from a young age.
  • Shannon: Lemony Snicket. I think I out-basic Elma on this one. I loved how he broke the rules of narration.
A moment from high school or college that changed your life.
  • Elma: In grade 12, when I abandoned all previous plans for my future and chose advertising.
  • Shannon: In high school, I once fell asleep during a math tutoring session. It solidified my goal to study English despite the constant "What will you do with an English degree?" comments. Look at me now, haters!
A visual artist or band/musician you admire.
  • Elma: Currently, I'm obsessed with the works of Arcmanoro Niles and Johnson Tsang. Follow them.
  • Shannon: I'm going to go rogue here and list some comedians I almost always have playing in my head: Bobby Lee, Theo Von and Whitney Cummings.
A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.
  • Elma: If I want to be inspired, I will usually turn to a Studio Ghibli film. That or RuPaul's Drag Race.
  • Shannon: I was recently really inspired by the show Atlanta. Then I was really inspired to tell everyone I know to watch Atlanta. I also just finished (and loved) Five Little Indians by Michelle Good.
Your favorite fictional character.
  • Elma: It's between Raymond Holt and Villanelle.
  • Shannon: It's a toss-up between Harry Potter, Peggy Olson and Batman. They'd make one heck of a weird ad agency.
Someone or something worth following in social media.
How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally.
  • Elma: It's helped me learn to prioritize myself.
  • Shannon: Professionally and personally, this pandemic taught me to take more risks and go after what I want. I've also learned how to turn various items around the house into makeshift desks.
One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on.
  • Elma: I still have so much love for my campaign for Project Consent. It was the first time I felt I had to be purposely provocative creatively to try to change behavior for a good cause. It's a very tight rope to traverse.
  • Shannon: Last year, we shot a film called "Jane's Story" for the Bank of Montreal about the stereotypes around women and money. We got such an overwhelmingly positive response and it felt amazing to tell a story that spoke to generations of women.
Project Consent | Case Study
BMO | Jane's Story
A recent project you're proud of.
  • Elma: "Project Understood" for the Canadian Down Syndrome Society in partnership with Google. It's the perfect example of how advertising can breach the barrier into our everyday lives and begin to improve the lives of a community that has been overlooked. It was such a beautiful effort of everyone involved: client, agency, Google team and participants.
  • Shannon: I second that. "Project Understood" made us remember the power of advertising and why we do the dang thing.
Introducing Project Understood
Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.
  • Elma: It's probably a bad idea to try to measure yourself up to the early works of David Droga and Barton F. Graf, but it helped me push for better work. Legends in my book.
  • Shannon: Barton F. Graf, for sure. I've also always admired the work of Toronto creative director and writer Matt Antonello. His "Sexy Subaru" campaign made me want to do what he does.
Someone else's work you admired lately.
  • Elma: Anything and everything that Donald Glover and Jon Favreau create.
  • Shannon: I was recently really moved by Google's Year in Search 2020, narrated by Kofi Lost.
Google — Year in Search 2020
Your main strength as a creative person.
  • Elma: I love learning and I'm only ever satisfied when the work turns out great. Why do anything unless you can try to make it the best it could be?
  • Shannon: Never giving up.
Your biggest weakness.
  • Elma: Delegating.
  • Shannon: Self-doubt. And staying up past my bedtime.
One thing that always makes you happy.
  • Elma: Great stand-up comedy.
  • Shannon: Pizza with extra pineapples.
One thing that always makes you sad.
  • Elma: Corporations not willing to save the planet. It makes no sense. If we're all gone, who's going to buy their two-liter bottle of pop or anything else?
  • Shannon: People who debate me on the whole pineapple-on-pizza thing.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.
  • Elma: I ask myself that every day.
  • Shannon: I'd ask Elma that every day.

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

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